The Glasgow University team. Credit:

UofG students compete to win $500,000

By Odhran Gallagher

Glasgow University students have reached the final of an amazon programming competition.

A team from University of Glasgow are competing in an Amazon Science competition which could see them win a jackpot of $500,000. The team has already reached the final stage of the competition, which is to take place in mid-September. The teams are competing to build multimodal conversational agents that assist customers in completing tasks requiring multiple steps. 

The Glasgow team, composed of 8 students and 1 lecturer, will face off in the final against four other teams from the University of Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, University of California, Santa Cruz, and NOVA School of Science and Technology. Well poised for victory, the Glasgow team came away with first-prize in last year’s competition. 

The final stage of the competition will involve responding to user feedback. Amazon users can already interact with the university talbots by saying “Alexa, let’s work together” on devices with Amazon Echo enabled. After saying the command, customers receive a brief message informing them that they are interacting with an Alexa Prize university taskbot before being randomly connected to one of the participating taskbots. During this final phase, university teams implement their latest innovations and adjust their approach based on customer feedback.

After the final phase, prizes will be awarded to the teams whose taskbots are judged to have the best overall performance. $500,000 is up for grabs for the first place prize, with $100,000 and $50,000 for second and third places respectively.

First-year PhD student and team leader, Sophie Fischer, told The Glasgow Guardian: “We find it exciting to use the latest advances in Large Language Models to create experiences for users that are fun and engaging by bringing in new types of rich interactions and teaching them new knowledge and skills. The Challenge is a fun rollercoaster because the time from research to real-world deployment is shorter than in most research projects.”


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